The latest Rays news and notes:
- The Rays defeated the Pirates last night 6-4. David Price got the start and looked sharp, allowing two runs through seven strong innings. Luke Scott and Elliot Johnson did most of the damage offensively. Scott went 2-4 with three RBI and a two-run homer, while Johnson went 2-4 with two RBI and two doubles. Click here for the full boxscore.
- Next up for the Rays is Philadelphia today at 1:05 ET in Clearwater. The game will be televised on ESPN.
- Bad news in terms of injury updates; B.J. Upton will start the season on the disabled list. Upton, who was in an outfield collision with Desmond Jennings two weeks ago, says his back is still tight. As for Jennings, he looks ready to go for Opening Day. It looks like wrist surgery is very likely for Sam Fuld next week, which would mean he could miss the first half of the season. Reid Brignac right foot injury is apparently healing, as he said he’ll fight through the pain and return to spring training action today.
- Joe Maddon announced the order of the Rays’ starting rotation yesterday, and it was exactly what most of us expected. Shields will pitch Opening Day, following by Price, Hellickson, Moore, and then Niemann.
- The Rays made their next round of cuts yesterday. Brandon Gomes, Marquis Fleming, Ryan Reid, and Chris Gimenez all were assigned to minor league camp. With Giminez off the big-league roster, that means Jose Lobaton will get the backup catcher gig.
- Bill Chastain of MLB.com previews the Rays’ farm system in 2012.
The latest Rays news and notes:
- Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported this morning that Joe Maddon has announced the Rays’ starting rotation for the Opening Day roster. As expected, Jeff Niemann has won the battle for the fifth spot in the rotation, and Wade Davis will be relegated to a long-reliever role in the bullpen. Maddon didn’t officially announce the order of the rotation, but we can expect it will look like this: Shields, Price, Hellickson, Moore, Niemann.
- The Rays’ bats finally came alive in their 10-4 victory over the Minnesota Twins yesterday. Ben Zobrist led the charge going 3 for 3 with a grand slam, while Elliot Johnson and Cody Rodgers also hit homers. The Rays’ 10 runs and 14 hits was a spring training high. Pitching wise, Jeff Niemann pitched five inning and allowed just two runs. Click here for a full boxscore.
- The Rays are in Fort Meyers again today, as they take on the Red Sox at 1:35 ET. Fernando Rodney will get the start against Josh Beckett, as the Rays are decided to pitch all relievers this afternoon. The starting lineups have been announced, click here to view.
- The Rays’ injury update today includes both good and bad news. Starting with the bad news, Sam Fuld’s wrist injury may require surgery, which would mean Fuld could miss the 2012 season. If Fuld decides to do rehab, he still won’t be ready for Opening Day. As for the good news, B.J. Upton said this morning he expects to be ready for the season opener. Desmond Jennings, who’s also banged up from the March 14 collision in the outfield, is back in the lineup today and is also expected to be ready for Opening Day. Reid Brignac said his right foot is feeling better, and is aiming a return to big-league spring training action tomorrow.
- The Rays announced three more events for their summer concert series yesterday. LL Cool J, Earth Wind & Fire, and The Wiggles will all join the Trop’s lineup of post-game concerts this season.
The latest Rays news and notes:
- The Rays’ spring training record dropped to 6-14-3 yesterday after losing to the Miami Marlins 5-1. Wade Davis continues to struggle as he battles for the fifth spot in the rotation, allowing four runs in just 4.2 innings pitched. Some notable performances included Carlos Pena (1-1 with a run scored), Sean Rodriguez (2-4 with a stolen base), and J.P. Howell (scoreless through 1.1 innings pitched). Click here for a full boxscore.
- Next up for the Rays are the Minnesota Twins today at 1:05 ET. Jeff Niemann will take the bump in his final spring start against Scott Baker; click here for the the Rays’ starting lineup.
- You’ve probably already heard the big Rays news of the week. Rays’ prospect pitcher Matt Bush was arrested last Thursday after a DUI crash, involving a a 72-year-old motorcyclist hospitalized in serious condition. While under the influence, Bush hit a man’s motorcycle from behind and than ran right over his head with one of the car’s tires. To make matters worse, Bush did not hesitate and ran away from the scene. Bush, who has had issues with alcoholism throughout his professional career, is set for a $1 million bond. It looks like Bush has put the finishing touches on ruining his baseball career, as Andrew Friedman said yesterday he won’t be playing for the Rays in the future.
- The Rays seem to have a hard time staying healthy this spring, as more injuries continue to pile up. B.J. Upton’s sore back is taking longer than expected to heal, as Maddon is apparently planning to set an Opening Day roster without him. Desmond Jennings and Reid Brignac are banged up as well, and have also joined Upton in their minor league rehab process. Brignac is in a bit of jeopardy of missing Opening Day with right foot inflammation, while Jennings could return tomorrow as he recovers from soreness after his collision with Upton. Sam Fuld is also hurt with a wrist injury, which he expects to get checked out by a doctor today. Fuld will likely miss Opening Day.
- The Rays made their latest round of cuts yesterday, reducing the roster down to 34. Craig Albernaz, Brad Coon, Matt Mangini, Jhonny Nunez, and Romulo Sanchez were all reassigned to minor-league camp.
- The first episode of the Rays podcast PTBNL came out last week. DRaysBay site managers Steve Slowinski and Jason Collette talk about Opening Day roster battles for the Rays. You can click here to play, and listen to all their episodes for free at iTunes.
This is part three of The Rays Rant’s evaluation on the Rays’ top prospects. To view part one of the series, click here. For part two, click here. All rankings are based off MLB.com’s top organization prospect list.
11. Parker Markel
Scouting Report: The Rays could have a future reliever in right-hander Parker Markel. The 21-year-old started 13 games last year in the New York-Penn League, and pitched pretty well in his first season as a starter. Markel went 3-4 with a 3.14 ERA through 57.1 innings pitched. The six-foot-four 220-pounder has pretty good stuff, including a quality fastball. His heater ranges in the low 90′s, while generating plenty of ground outs. Markel also has a plus changeup to complement his fastball, but his secondary pitches are a bit of a question after that. He does have a slider with potential in his arsenal, but he didn’t show it much at all last year. Markel’s stuff is not one of his main areas of concern. Most scouts can agree that his mechanics are lacking, which doesn’t help his case at all for a starting role. Markel also needs to continue to improve his command, even though it appears as if he’s going in the right direction in that department. Low strikeout rates are another red flag for Markel, which is a big strange considering scouting reports’ admiration on his stuff. Strikeout ratios may not be a big deal at the MLB level, but they sometimes can be a foreshadowing sign for pitchers in the early stages of the minors.
Conclusion: Chances are that Markel ends up becoming a reliever with the Rays’ organization, rather than a starter. Although he may have good enough stuff to become a big league starter, a relief role is clearly the best fit for him. Markel doesn’t have the stamina for a starting role; at least that’s what his 2011 short-season numbers reflected. Markel’s three-pitch arsenal and groundball-inducing abilities are other reasons why his future’s brighter as a reliever. From the Rays’ perspective, a good young reliever is really just as great as another starting pitcher. Tampa could use a lot more help in that department, and they have a lot to like about Markel when he joins their ‘pen.
12. Josh Sale
Offensively: Former first-round draft Josh Sale hasn’t been written off just yet after his poor professional debut. The 20-year-old slugger hit .210 with just four homers and 15 RBI last year with the Rookie League Princeton Rays. Sale was drafted for his big-time offensive ability. He possesses huge raw power and excellent bat speed from his big left-handed swing, giving him the potential to become a very good hitter. As the stats show, it’s clear that Sale needs to work on his plate approach in order to make more contact. Once the ball starts meeting the bat, Sale’s homerun-power will quickly shine on the baseball field. Baserunning wise, Sale has never excelled at all in that department. The muscular six-foot 215-pounder lacks athletic ability to some degree, and is a below-average runner overall.
Defensively: Defense is probably Sale’s biggest weakness on the diamond. Although he has improved at his corner outfield position, he’s still probably a below-average outfielder overall. Sale has a naturally strong arm, and his overall throwing abilities are about average and could become above-average if he continues to improve. He has worked hard to fix some issues with his arm action, and will hopefully convert his raw strength into a decent throwing arm in the outfield. As I said before, Sale lacks speed. Although he’s not slow, he doesn’t have much range at all in the outfield.
Conclusion: At 20 years of age, Sale has ways to go. Time and experience is really what he needs to reach his full potential. Sale knows what he needs to needs to do in order to progress through the minors, and he eventually his outstanding hitting abilities will break through with hard work.
13. Brandon Guyer
Offensively: Acquired in the Matt Garza trade, Guyer quickly excelled during his first year in the Rays’ organization. In his first ever big league at bat, Guyer blasted a homer into the seats of Camden Yards. That would be the first of 15 games he’d play for the Rays in 2011, as Guyer spent most of the season in Triple-A Durham. In his 107 games in AAA, he batted .312 with 14 home runs and 61 RBI. A career .297 hitter in the minors, Guyer is a very good all-around offensive player. The 25-year-old has the ability to make good contact, hit for power, and steal bases with great speed. The Rays could really use a guy on the roster like Guyer, who brings the uncommon combination of speed and power to the table.
Defensively: An excellent athlete, Guyer’s a good defensive outfielder overall. His fast legs help him run down balls in the gap well, and his accurate throwing is also a plus. Guyer’s arm strength is about average, which is probably the main reason why he profiles better as a corner-outfielder in the majors. Still, Guyer has plenty of experience at center and will be able to fill in there when needed.
Conclusion: As Guyer nears a big league breakthrough, he’s one guy the Rays will definitely keep an eye on. A crowded outfield is the only thing that has kept him away from significant playing time in the majors, and his five-tool abilities will continue to inch him closer to a spot on the roster. Guyer appears to be developing into a better hitter overall, especially power-wise. If he continues to succeed in the minors, Guyer could very possibly be a key player for the Rays as early as this season.
14. Alex Colome
Scouting Report: Alex Colome is not exactly a known name among baseball’s top prospects or even the Rays’ prospects, but he’s one talented arm. Colome is a power pitcher, depending heavily upon his hard fastball and sharp curveball. The changeup is another pitch that Colome likes to mix up in his arsenal, but it’s still a developing pitch for a him. His secondary pitches will be crucial for him as he progresses through the Rays’ system. Like most of the Rays’ top pitching prospects, Colome’s main issue is command. Colome had stints with both Class-A Charlotte and Class-AA Montgomery last year. His combined stats included a 3.82 ERA, a 12-9 record and a terrific 9.6 K/9 ratio. The command was what contributed to the mediocre ERA, but Colome showed that he can be a great strikeout pitcher. Colome’s electric stuff is what makes him a hit with the scouts.
Conclusion: At just 23 years of age, the six-foot-two right-hander still has a lot of baseball left in his minor league career. It looks like he’ll be starting in high Single-A in 2012, where he hopes it won’t take him too long to move up from there. Even with the Rays over-crowded pitching depth, Colome could very possibly make his debut sometime during the 2013 season.
15. Ryan Brett
Offensively: The Rays drafted a scrappy second baseman in Ryan Brett during the third round of the 2010 draft. His old-fashion, aggressive approach to the game makes him a perfect fit in the Rays’ organization. The 20-year-old switch hitter posted a .300/.370/.471 line along with three homers and 24 RBI during his 61 games in Rookie League ball last season. Brett has shown the ability to make consistent contact at the plate, with plenty of solid line drives. He has more pop in his bat than he appears with his five-foot-nine 180-pound stature, but still won’t provide much power in his career. As for base running, Brett has great speed and the knack to steal bases. He swiped 21 bags last year, and his good instincts on the basepaths should lead to more stolen-base success in the future.
Defensively: Brett has improved a lot over the past year defensively, as second base continues to appear as his position as he starts his pro baseball career. His overall defense is somewhere around average, and most scouts agree that he needs to improve his overall fielding. I expect Brett to move forward defensively in 2012, as he has a chance to become a solid second baseman in the future.
Conclusion: Brett is no Dustin Pedroia, but there’s still a lot of upside to him. He has several years ahead of him in the minors, and 2012 will be important for him as he starts his first full-season of work. Brett will probably continue to be one of those under-the-radar prospects because of his size, but his great offensive approach should eventually get him some notice as he moves up the ranks.
The latest Rays news and notes:
- The Rays hosted the Red Sox yesterday in a sold out and televised game at Port Charlotte. Matt Moore squared off against Clay Buchholz in his first spring start, and was hit pretty hard by the Boston bats. Moore allowed 4 earned runs and 3 walks in just 2.1 innings pitched, setting the tone for the 8-4 loss. Some notable Rays performances included Kyle Farnsworth (one scoreless inning of work), Evan Longoria (2-3 with a home run), Desmond Jennings (two hits), Luke Scott (1-4 with an RBI), and Jose Molina (RBI single). Click here for a full boxscore.
- The Rays have an off-day today, so next up is the Florida Marlins in Jupiter Tuesday.
- The Rays apparently have a new catchphrase for the 2012 season. Joe Maddon came up with ‘MoRmentum’, which means ‘more momentum’. Maddon says momentum will be a key factor to the Rays’ success this year.
- The Rays made their latest round of cuts yesterday, optioning five more players down to the minors. Among Sunday’s cuts were Tim Beckham, Matt Bush, Dane De La Rosa, Brandon Guyer, and Steven Vogt.
- Rays beat writer Bill Chastain writes about reliever Jake McGee in his recent MLB.com article.
- Bill Madden of New York Daily News praises the Rays’ rotation, claiming it’s the deepest staff in all of baseball.
The latest Rays news and notes:
- If you haven’t already heard, a total of 71 Rays shaved their heads yesterday on the Charlotte Sports Park boardwalk before their game against the Philadelphia to benefit the Pediatric Cancer Foundation and the Vincent Lecavalier Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disorders Center at All Children’s Hospital. It was definitely one of the Rays’ most exciting charity event ever, and probably had the most participation. Read and watch more about it at Raysbaseball.com.
- The Rays tied their second game in three days yesterday, finishing their game against the Phillies with a 6-6 ninth-inning draw. Wade Davis’ struggles continued, as he allowed 3 earned runs in 4 innings while allowing 8 hits in his third spring start. Despite another poor outing, Davis said he felt good. Kyle Farnsworth and Cesar Ramos followed Davis’ start, combining for three innings of scoreless work. Offensively, Sam Fuld and Reid Brignac both had themselves a good day going 2-3, while Luke Scott collected his first hit of the spring. Jesus Feliciano got the big hit of the day, driving in the tying run in the bottom of the ninth with a two-out double. Click here for a full boxscore of Thursday’s game.
- Next up for the Rays is the Toronto Blue Jays at 1:05 in Dunedin. Jeff Niemann will start today’s game, here’s the starting lineup via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.
- As for injuries, the main focus is obviously concerning the scary collision between Desmond Jennings and B.J. Upton that happened during Wednesday’s game versus the Marlins. Fortunately, both are okay and apparently not injured. Jennings is returning today while Upton will likely play tomorrow. Catcher Robinson Chirinos seems to be in a much worse condition, as his concussion is slowly healing. Chirinos, who’s battling for the backup catcher spot, has not yet set a date for his return.
- The Rays made their second round of roster cuts on Wednesday. Among the six assigned to the minors were Hak-Ju Lee, Alex Colome, and Wilking Rodriguez. The Rays had their first cuts on Monday when Alex Cobb, Chris Archer and Alex Torres were optioned down.
It’s not every year that the Rays get a young outfielder as explosive as Desmond Jennings. The 25-year-old rookie is the perfect medicine to heal some of the Rays’ offensive woes. Jennings MLB arrival is rather convenient too, as the Rays lost their former franchise leftfielder following the 2010 season. He’s really the best replacement for Carl Crawford the Rays could get with their limited payroll. Like Crawford, Jennings provides the team with a leadoff-type hitter, excellent speed, decent power, and above-average defense in the outfield. The Rays have a lot to be excited about with him, and will need every bit of his offensive contributions as they battle for the pennant this season. Jennings will enter his first full MLB season this year, returning from an impressive 63-game stint with the Rays in 2011. He put up a .259/.356/.449 line, while collecting 10 homers and 20 stolen bases through his 247 at-bats. After a great first impression, quite a lot is expected out of Jennings in 2011. Skipper Joe Maddon has already decided to put him in the leadoff spot for this season, a task that is very uncommon amongst rookies. Jennings is clearly the best guy for the job, and there’s plenty of reasons to believe he’ll get it done in the No. 1 spot. Here’s my full-season stat projections for Jennings in 2012.
Career Average (MLB and minors): .289
MLB Average (80 games): .254
2012 Projection: .270
Jennings wasn’t exactly a consistent .300 hitter throughout his minor league career, and I wouldn’t expect that out of him in his big league career. Still, Jennings has proven he can hit pretty well for average. His biggest challenge at the plate against Major League pitchers is strikeouts. The high strikeout rates are something the Rays would like to see him improve on, especially now that he’s their leadoff hitter. His hard swing provides him with good power, but doesn’t help out his average too much. I believe that Jennings will eventually bring his average up to where it needs to be, as he’s still developing as a quality big league hitter. But of course, a .270 average is a very acceptable number for a rookie season. Batting average is the main stat that Jennings needs to improve on, and we can expect that he hits better than his .259 from last season.
Runs Batted In
Career Average (MLB and minors): 51 RBI per 500 ABs
MLB Total (80 games): 27 RBI
2012 Projection: 56 RBI in 550 AB
Averaging about 51 RBI per 500 at-bats, Jennings never has put up big run-production numbers in his pro career. Knocking in a bunch of runs is not exactly a priority for Jennings, and he clearly has the ability to drive in more runs than what’s expected from a leadoff hitter. He has plenty of pop in his bat for a speedy leadoff man, and really just has to continue what he did in 2011 to put up the RBI numbers he needs. Jennings hit 25 RBI in 63 games last season, which converts to 55 RBI with the 162-game average.
Career Average (MLB and minors): 12 HR per 500 AB
MLB Total (80 games): 10 HR
2012 Projection: 15 HR in 550 AB
Jennings raw power is not too common amongst right-handed leadoff hitters alike. He possesses natural pop in his swing that makes him somewhat of a home run threat to opposing pitchers. He may not be a 20-homer guy in the near future, but he showed everybody last year his ability to turn around a fastball into the bleachers against big league competition. Jennings belted 10 dingers in 63 games last season, which calculates into a 162-game average of 20 home runs. Jennings’ power surge was a bit of a pleasant surprise in 2011, and was a great bonus in addition to his great speed. Like for the RBI stat, Jennings needs to continue what he did last year in order to put up the adequate home run numbers.
Career Average (MLB and minors): 57 SB per 162 games
MLB Total (80 game): 22 SB
2012 Projection: 40 SB in 162 games
Stealing bases has always been the biggest part of Jennings’ game. The kid can absolutely fly, as his pure speed on the base paths is one of the most exciting in the game. Jennings’ stolen base success looks like it will translate in the big leagues, making him a pretty good Carl Crawford replacement already. He successfully stole 22 times out of 30 attempts so far in his MLB career, a ratio that’s impressive for a rookie. Jennings seems to have a knack for swiping bags, and of course the excellent speed is a huge help. I’m predicting 40 stolen bases for him in 2012, a number that would look great on any rookie’s stat sheet. It could be less or more, but either way Jennings is going to drive pitchers crazy on the bases this year.
Career Minor League Average: .382
Career Major League Average: .351
2012 Projection: .344
Getting on base is one of the main parts of Jennings’ job description. OBP will be a crucial stat for him as he hits in the leadoff spot, and will be a huge factor in the team’s overall offensive success. With Jennings ability to produce on the base pads, there’s quite a lot of pressure on the 25-year-old to get on base consistently. I’m predicting a decent .344 OBP for him in 2012, which is a tad over the league average and .22 points higher than the Rays’ team OBP last year. If Jennings manages to post an OBP close to that, he’ll be contributing heavily to the Rays’ run production this season.
Career Average (MLB and minors): 118 R per 162 games
MLB Total (80 games): 49 R
2012 Projection: 99 R in 162 games
If your a Rays fan, you obviously hope that Jennings crosses the plate many times this season. A high run total does not only mean that Jennings is on his game, but it also means that the meat of the order is doing their job as well. The Rays can probably expect from him a run total anywhere in the 90′s range, which they would love to have out of their leadoff man. Obviously this is not a stat that purely reflects the player, but a high enough OBP should lead to a good run total. Jennings’ speed will also help him score throughout the season, and will continue the Rays way of generating runs.
6. Taylor Guerrieri
Scouting Report: The Rays continue to invest in young pitching. Tampa drafted right-handed pitcher Taylor Guerrieri in the first round last summer, adding another talented arm into the Rays’ organization. Guerrieri features electric stuff, throwing up to speeds of 97 MPH. Besides his dominant fastball, Guerrieri also throws an impressive power curveball, providing him with a great secondary pitch. For good reasons, he hardly ever used his changeup in high school, but most scouts seem to believe he can develop it into a usable pitch. Guerrieri also has a hard cutter in his arsenal, which goes along with his live two-seamer. As for mechanics, there are a few basic things in his delivery that he needs to tweak. Still, nothing that should be a big problem moving forward.
Conclusion: At just 19 years of age, Guerrieri will experience his first professional season this year. Being so young with such little experience and a lot of talent, it’s hard to say exactly what to expect out of Guerrieri in the future. If one thing’s for sure, he has great stuff which can translate into big-time potential. Guerrieri won’t be arriving in the big leagues any time soon, but he’s definitely a prospect worth watching as he progresses through the minors.
7. Alex Torres
Scouting Report: Alex Torres, who was acquired in the 2009 Scott Kazmir trade, has made steady progress through the Rays’ farm system during the last year. The 24-year-old spent the 2011 season with AAA Durham, ending the year with a strong second half which earned him a September callup. Torres went 9-7 with a 3.08 ERA through 146.1 innings pitched for the Bulls last season, and allowed one run through his eight innings out of the bullpen with the Rays. Torres has good stuff, featuring a quality fastball and two main off-speed pitches; a changeup and and a curve. His secondary stuff is apparently effective, because he’s keeping hitters off-balance enough to post a high SO/9 ratio of 9.6 last season in the minors. One of the things that makes Torres a high-ranked prospect is his ability to have three quality pitches once he’s fully developed. The only thing that’s been holding him back his whole career has been his command issues. Torres will simply need to improve his strike-throwing ratios if he wants to break in as a starter in the Major Leagues.
Conclusion: Torres has a promising future in the big leagues, and will probably contribute to the ‘pen this season. The biggest question surrounding Torres is whether he has a brighter future as a starter or a reliever. He has good enough stuff for both, but he’s going to have to improve his command if he wants a starting role with the Rays. I see him as a reliever if he stays with the Rays’ organization, but a starter if he plays for another team in the future.
8. Drew Vettleson
Offensively: Drew Vettleson may be the most intriguing of the Rays’ prospects. Vettleson was the Rays’ third 1st-round draft pick in 2010, drafted out of the Pacific Northwest region. What the Rays see in Vettleson is pure, quality baseball player. He has great skills at the plate, and most scouts believe he has the ability to be a good average hitter in the future. He puts up great at bats, and hits the ball hard and often. Vettleson hit .282 with seven homers and 40 RBI through 61 games in his first pro season for Princeton this year. His homerun power has been a debate amongst scouts, but most agree that the lefty can be a double-digit homerun hitter down the road. Vettleson’s baseball intelligence is another strength he possesses on the diamond. Good baseball instincts is something that the Rays highly value in their prospects, and Vettleson is a great example. His baseball smarts really come in handy on the base pads, as he doesn’t have very fast legs. Last year, Vettleson managed to collect 20 stolen bases
Defensively: The most interesting part about Vettleson is that he’s also a pitcher. But not just any pitcher, a switch pitcher. Vettleson can both pitch with his right and left hand; something that is very rare these days in baseball. Although he could try professional baseball as pitcher, most experts agree that the outfield is where he belongs. His pitching arm makes him a good fit in the right field, where Vettleson spent the entire 2011 season.
Conclusion: Vettleson is ways away, but he should be making progress through the minors this year after an impressive first season. We can probably expect to see Vettleson make his big league debut in 2014.
9. Enny Romero
Scouting Report: Southpaw Enny Romero makes the Rays’ stack of talented arms even higher. The 21-year-old throws a great fastball, reaches speeds in the mid-90′s with plenty of movement. His secondary pitches don’t have the same kind of effect on opposing hitters, but both his changeup and curveball have the chance to become great pitches. Just like most 21-year-old hard-throwing lefties, Romero needs to improve on his control and command. If Romero can improve his command while maintaining his great strikeout stuff, the Rays will have another scary pitcher down in the farm. Statistically speaking, Romero went 5-5 with a 4.26 ERA and 140 strikeouts last year with Class-A Bowling Green. The numbers are nothing special, but the outstanding strikeout rates show the type of ability he has.
Conclusion: It should be fun to watch a player with so much potential like Romero develop in the minors throughout the next couple of years. It’s debatable whether his future is brighter as a starter or a reliever, but either way he’s a pretty exciting prospect. The Rays have mastered the art of turning young talents like Romero into quality pitchers, and hopefully the trend will continue here.
10. Blake Snell
Scouting Report: Yet another talented left-handed pitcher, the Rays drafted Blake Snell in the first round of the MLB draft last summer. The 19-year-old features three main pitches in his arsenal; a fastball, a changeup, and a curve. Snell’s heater is his best pitch, which he throws in the low-90′s down in the zone, enticing lots of groundballs. He needs to work on his secondary pitches, though, as his curveball lacks sharpness a bit. Snell played his first professional season last year, posting a 3.08 ERA and 26 strikeouts through 26.1 innings pitched.
Conclusion: Like I said before, the Rays have a reputation of developing young pitchers like Snell. Improvements in command and control will come with time, as Snell has a long ways to go in his minor league journey.
The latest Rays news and notes:
- The Rays have won two of their last five games, which also included a tie. Yesterday, the Rays lost to the Red Sox 5-0 in another frustrating offensive effort. Wade Davis had a rough start, allowing two earned runs and walking four batters in 2 2/3 innings of work. Offensively, the Rays collected seven hits and left 22 men on base. The Rays now fall to a 2-6 spring training record. Click here for a full boxscore.
- The Rays’ injuries continue to make forward progress. Evan Longoria (bruised hand) will likely play his first game today against the Pirates. David Price suffered a bizarre injury during Thursday’s game, hurting his neck while toweling off. Price will probably pitch his next scheduled start, but his between-starts bullpen session was pushed back to today. Yesterday he said he felt “almost normal.” Matt Moore (mild abdominal strain) seems to have fully healed, and is scheduled to start Tuesday. Brandon Gomes (offseason back surgery) is set to play today’s game, possibly along with Luke Scott (offseason shoulder surgery). Kyle Farnsworth, who’s being handled cautiously after elbow soreness last year, will make his debut Monday. The most concerning injury for the Rays is probably Sean Rodriguez’s sprained left index finger. Rodriguez will most likely return in the next few days, but he’ll have to play with pain for at least three more weeks.
- Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported Friday that James Shields will be the Rays’ Opening Day starter.
- Reid Brignac now has a son, Reid Michael, who was born yesterday. The birth came less than a month after many found out that Brignac was dating Playboy model Lauren Anderson.
- Skipper Joe Maddon will shave his head for charity. Maddon will do the shaving publicly at Charlotte Sports Park before an upcoming game against the Phillies.
Another exciting year of Tampa Bay Rays baseball is right around the corner. The Rays seem confident and ready for a successful 2012 season, and it’s easy to see why. After a memorable 2011 season, the Rays return to Tampa with another very talented group. The front office got the job done this offseason, reeling in three key pieces while only losing two big names from last year. The Rays replaced their 2011 first-baseman/DH combo — Johnny Damon and Casey Kotchman — with the big bats of Carlos Pena and Luke Scott. They also filled in the huge catcher hole in the roster, picking up veteran backstop Jose Molina. As the Rays return with filled gaps and arguably the best rotation in baseball, they are definitely serious contenders for a title. They hope to finally get over the hump in 2012, after being defeated by the Texas Rangers two straight years in the ALDS. Here’s an outlook of what to except from the Rays this year.
If one thing’s for sure, the Rays have one of the most talented starting rotations in all of baseball. Last season, the Rays had arguably the best rotation in the league, and this year it’s expected to get even better. Phenom rookie Matt Moore is the newest addition to Tampa’s pitching staff, and will likely find a spot in the Opening Day rotation. However, the Matt Moore hype is not the biggest topic amongst the Rays’ starters this spring. All eyes will be watching the battle between Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis for the fifth spot in the rotation. Having a rotation that’s six starters deep is a great problem to have for any team, and will provide the Rays will security throughout the season. The winner of the battle between Niemann and Davis will probably come down to whoever preforms better during spring training. Although exhibition games have not yet started, my early prediction goes to Niemann here. Both hurlers are qualified for the job, but better numbers and more experience will likely give Niemann the edge in this competition. Also, Davis may suit the long reliever role better than Niemann. Davis doesn’t eat up inning like Niemann does, and Niemann hasn’t had much success throwing out of the bullpen in the past.
Now let’s take a look at the guys in front of the fifth starter. It may just be the best starting quartet in the MLB, as the Rays feature a lineup of four All Star caliber pitchers. James Shields, who had a career year last season, will likely be the Opening Day starter. It’s hard not to award him with the #1 spot after the ridiculous numbers he put up in 2011. “Big Game James” finished third in the Cy Young voting after posting a 2.82 ERA with 16 wins and 11 complete games. It’s hard to except those kind of numbers out of Shields in 2012, but you can still count on him to have another good season. Fellow All Star David Price will likely follow Shields in the rotation. The 26-year-old southpaw had an off-year last season, finishing with a below .500 record and a 3.49 ERA. Price has already proved he’s an ace-type pitcher, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he explodes with a huge season in 2012. We can expect to see Rookie of the Year Jeremy Hellickson in the #3 hole to start the season, which really shows just how scary the Rays’ rotation actually is. Hellickson quickly established himself as one of the top pitchers in the league in just his first full big league season, posting a 2.95 ERA through 189 innings pitched. This season’s ROY winner could very possibly pitching right after him, as Matt Moore seems like a likely fit for the fourth spot. Of course, we all remember Moore’s big league success during his brief stint in the majors last year.
Starting Pitching in the Organization
The Rays are stacked with arms down in their farm system. There are three starters that could make a big league splash this season; Alex Cobb, Alex Torres, and Chris Archer. Cobb already proved he can be an effective starter at the Major League level, when he started nine games replacing the injured Jeff Niemann. Cobb went 3-2 with a 3.42 ERA in his rookie year. He’s never been considered a top prospect, but I think he’s a bit underrated by scouts. Alex Torres, on the other hand, is a pretty high ranked prospect, as he’s a member of the Rays’ top 10 prospect list. With the crowded rotation, Torres hasn’t really got his chance with the Rays yet, but he does have eight innings pitched out of the bullpen under his belt. There isn’t any good chances that Torres will start games in 2012, but he’ll probably contribute to the ‘pen during the season. Chris Archer, the organization’s #3 prospect (according to MLB.com), could also pitch out the bullpen by the end of the 2012 season. Archer is still developing in the minors, in hopes to become a frontline starter type pitcher in the majors. However, it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen in the near future, as the Rays simply don’t have a spot for him in the rotation. Still, his excellent fastball-slider combo could make him an effective reliever, and give the Rays a huge boost in the late innings.
As you can see, the bullpen will look a little different than it did last season. The 8-9 inning combo will probably be the same, with Kyle Farnsworth as the closer and Joel Peralta as the setup man. The front end of the bullpen will definitely look different, though, as some of the Rays’ new acquisitions will likely find some spots in the ‘pen. The long relief role will obviously go to whoever loses the battle for the fifth spot in the rotation; I’m assuming either Davis or Niemann. I’m also predicting there will be two lefties in the ‘pen, considering how Maddon seems to like having at least two left-handed arms in contrast to just one. J.P. Howell will likely get the ‘lefty specialist’ role, and Jake McGee may take over the middle relief spot. Burke Badenhop, another new face, will probably end up as the bullpen’s groundball guy. With Adam Russell no longer with the Rays, it’s important to have a reliever in the ‘pen to go to when you’re looking specifically for a double play. As for the ‘right-handed specialist’ or the ‘one-out right-hander guy’, Fernando Rodney seems like the best fit for that spot.
But of course, there will be some spring competitions within the bullpen. Brandon Gomes, Josh Lueke, Dane De La Rosa, Matt Bush, Alex Torres and Cesar Ramos all have shots at a bullpen spot throughout the season. Keep your eyes peeled for Gomes and Lueke, as a good enough spring training performance might earn them a spot on the roster.
First Base- Carlos Pena will be manning first base for the Rays this season, just as he did from 2007-2010. There is some depth at the position, as utility infielders Ben Zobrist and Sean Rodriguez can both fill in at first. Zobrist, who can play every position outside the battery, actually fields the position decently. That’s definitely good to have in mind in case of an injury. Outfielder Matt Joyce can also be added to the depth chart. Joyce has started his first base practice this offseason, and may continue to work on it throughout spring training.
Third Base- Evan Longoria will be the Opening Day third baseman for the fourth straight year. The Rays do have some depth at third, with Sean Rodriguez and Elliot Johnson. Zobrist also has the ability to play the hot corner, but it’s really the last role he has to worry about.
Up The Middle:
Second Base- “Zorilla” will be the Opening Day second baseman, continuing to provide the Rays with great defense at the position. Sean Rodriguez, Jeff Keppinger and Elliot Johnson will all backup Zobrist at second throughout the year.
Shortstop- The shortstop position is the biggest question mark for Opening Day. Sean Rodriguez, Jeff Keppinger and Reid Brignac will have a three-way battle this spring for the starting role. The early favorite seems to be Rodriguez, but Keppinger and Brignac will definitely give him a run for his money this spring. Both Brignac and Rodriguez are good defensively, but Rodriguez gets the edge because he’s the better offensive player overall. Keppinger is a bit below average defensively at second base, but he’s probably a better contact hitter than the other two. His lifetime batting average of .281 is a lot higher than both Brignac’s and Rodriguez’s career averages. Still, my prediction is that Rodriguez will get the Opening Day shortstop gig.
The Rays filled in a big roster hole this offseason when they signed veteran backstop Jose Molina. Molina will be Opening Day catcher, but he’s not able to play more than 80-90 games this season.. Unfortunately, the Rays are pretty weak catching wise behind Molina. Rookie catchers Jose Lobaton and Robinson Chirinos, along with veteran Chris Gimenez, will battle this month for the Opening Day backup role. All three have little offensive ability, as well as little experience (especially Lobaton and Chirinos). It’s hard to say who gets the early edge here, but I think it goes to Gimenez. The thing that stands out with Gimenez is versatility. His ability to play the corner outfield and the corner infield is what may separate him from Lobaton and Chirinos in the end. When it’s all said and done, Gimenez is going to have to perform well enough during spring training to earn himself the backup job.
Left Field- Rookie Desmond Jennings will most likely be the Opening Day starter in left field. Sam Fuld will be backing him up all season long, as playing left field is what he does best.
Center Field- Luckily for the Rays, they will enjoy another season of B.J. Upton playing centerfield every day. Sean Rodriguez, Ben Zobrist, Desmond Jennings, and Matt Joyce could all potentially fill in at center if needed.
Right Field- Matt Joyce will be the Rays’ starting right-fielder, and will be backed up by a pair of talented outfielders throughout the season. Both Ben Zobrist and Sam Fuld will fill in at right when needed.
Luke Scott will be the Opening Day designated hitter, which is a change from his usual starting outfield role. Sam Fuld is technically the backup DH, but if Scott were to be injured Maddon would probably put Fuld in right field and let Matt Joyce play DH.
The Rays will have four bench players to round out their Opening Day 25-man roster. One of the bench spots will obviously be a backup catcher, so that narrows it down to Lobaton, Chirinos and Gimenez. Again, my prediction is that Gimenez will win the backup spot. There will be to infield bench players on the Opening Day roster, making a competition between Reid Brignac, Elliot Johnson and Jeff Keppinger (assuming Sean Rodriguez gets the starting job). My prediction is that Elliot Johnson will be just edged out here, meaning Brignac and Keppinger will start the season off the bench. That leaves one outfield bench spot, which will most likely go to Fuld.
The Rays don’t have a big list of position player prospects that could arrive in 2012, but there are two names that immediately jump out. Outfielder Brandon Guyer made his MLB debut last season, during his short 15-game stint. Guyer hopes to get more playing time this year, and probably will if he continues to put up offensive numbers in the minors. Guyer hit .312 with 61 RBI and 16 stolen bases for AAA Durham in 2011, which was the season after he hit .344 with 58 RBI and 30 stolen bases in Class-AA ball. Still, the Rays’ crowded outfield is what’s getting in the way of significant playing time for Guyer.
Shortstop Tim Beckham could also get some playing time this year as a September call-up. The former #1 overall draft-pick has slowly progressed in the minor leagues, and could get his first MLB stint if he continues to improve this year. Beckham hit .271 with 12 homers and 70 RBI through his 131 games with both AA Montgomery and AAA Durham.
Team MVP: Evan Longoria
Team Ace: David Price
Rays players in MLB Awards (Regular Season): Matt Moore (ROY), Evan Longoria (Gold Glove), Joe Maddon (Manager of the Year), and Evan Longoria (Silver Slugger).
Rays’ 2012 Record: 97-65
Rays’ 2012 AL East Finish: 1st place; tied with the New York Yankees’ record but will win the division by head-to-head record.
Rays’ 2012 Postseason Finish: Win World Series
I truly believe this is the season the Rays are finally going to pull it off. I look at it this way: the Rays had a great team last year, and they clearly have a better roster coming into 2012. With the full-season addition of Desmond Jennings, the outfield has improved. With the addition of Carlos Pena and more depth in the infield, it’s safe to say that a great infield has got even better. With the 2012 return of Matt Moore, an unbelievable starting rotation should be even more incredible. Barring any key injuries, the Rays flat-out have a better ball club in 2012. I see the Rays getting over that ALDS hump this year as inevitable.
As for the player predictions, you may be a bit surprised by my choice for team ace. Price has already proved he can be one of the top pitchers in the league, and I believe he just had an off-year last season. Whoever will be the Rays’ top pitcher in 2012 will likely not be the best starter by much at all. James Shields, Matt Moore, and Jeremy Hellickson all have the potential for huge seasons this year.